Ahhhhhhh my Dearest Readers!
Readers, Readers, Readers. Look at you all. So excited. So full of hope. So buoyed by one decent date. So electrified by one pash. Such a spring in your step now. It feels cruel and manipulative to raise your expectations so high, to fill you with a story so full of promise and potential.
Alas, Dear Readers. This aint no whimsical fantasy. Welcome to the emotional rollercoaster that is dating, that is the search for love and flesh and all that falls in between, that is adult human beings seeking to connect with one another through a variety of means including technology. You’ve got a lot of courage to go on all these dates, I’m often told. Nah. Anyone can go on a date. Talking to strangers is a skill you can learn. Listening and telling stories is mostly a joy. It’s the #emoroco between dates and after dates that takes courage to continue riding. It’s not that you need to be your best self to date – is anyone ever their best self, really? How do you know – is there some kind of pinnacle of selfdom you reach? You do need to be in tune with your instinct, to be strong enough to be vulnerable, to feel things deeply and still be ok, even when you’re not ok.
And with that foreboding sense of dramatic irony, I present this tragic sequel to ‘Down to the river’ (although honestly, surely I gave you a bit of a hint in that title, have y’all never listened to the Springsteen song of the same name?).
A few days later I texted to see if he’d like to get icecream later that night. I had dinner plans. I had chicken I needed to cook before it went off. He wasn’t available, but he would have liked to talk with me. I half sensed that a gentle let down might await me, but he didn’t want to discuss anything specific and it could wait until the next time we saw each other. Phew! Potential crisis averted! Everything would be totally fine, he’d probably just thought of something witty to say, or some insightful question about my very interesting life he wanted to ask me, or a philosophical dilemma he couldn’t wait to hear my opinion on! I could go back to eagerly anticipating Date #2!
The morning of our second riverside saunter I of course tried on several different outfits in order to A) stave off the cold whilst still B) looking cute af without C) wearing the exact same thing as Date #1. I settled on two pairs of leggings and a spencer under a woollen dress, woollen jumper and denim jacket under a cute af blue poncho with a faux fur lining. And Blunnies. Obvs. I dunno why I outline my outfits for you guys – does it help paint a picture, set the scene, illuminate the protagonist, or just weird? Anyway. We kept our hands in our pockets. Fair enough – perhaps given the intensity of Date #1 it was ok to take it a bit slower this time. I excitedly prattled on about my trip to Sydney and Canberra. We spoke about funerals and elders and families. We were walking along my usual running route. He stopped as we walked over a bridge and I thought perhaps it was pash time but we continued on. After we’d been walking for half an hour I asked him what it was he wanted to talk to me about.
For the next 45 minutes, I essentially youth-worked him through his feelings. Which were about me. And our first date. I wasn’t probing him because I’m a compassionate soul with some professional experience in having conversations with confused or hurt people in a way that respects their self-determination. I was probing because I didn’t know what the fuck was going on and because he was talking about ME. I was confused. Was he trying to let me down easy, that’s why he wouldn’t just come out and say it? Or was he genuinely unsure of what he wanted and needed someone to soundboard some ideas with? He used the word friend a lot. Are you friendzoning me? I joked. Which led to a lengthy discussion about what the term meant. He was physically attracted to me, he liked talking to me, he found me funny and interesting. Yet he felt that something wasn’t right when we kissed. So that’s what you were feeling while we were together, what about now? I asked, then when that failed to yield a conclusive response: So just to clarify, you don’t want to pursue any kind of relationship with me, that isn’t a friendship? That’s your gut feeling? He agreed. Then asked me if I had any questions or comments.
Questions or comments.
Like I’d just been taking notes at a lecture.
I’m all up for integrity and being real and having hard chats but this didn’t feel like a dialogue.
He then asked me if I thought that perhaps on a metaphysical level it wasn’t meant to work between us because there was someone better out there for me. I told him I thought the heart of question was a deterministic perspective on fate or destiny. Rather than taking that enticing philosophical bait I told him that I wasn’t quite ready to have a metaphysical conversation with him at that moment, because I was still emotionally responding to the fact that he didn’t see any romantic potential between us and I did, so I was still dealing with a little bit of disappointment there.
He apologised for not being more eloquent. He apologised for not apologising earlier.
We were still at least 20 minutes walk from our cars.
I wanted to run away. Just jog the fuck on.
I also simultaneously wanted to sit down and cry or go to the gym and box the punching bag or sleep for a really long time.
I mostly wanted to be anywhere other than walking alongside this man.
With a higher pitched voice I said so what are you up to for the rest of the weekend. We just filled the air with noises we made with our mouths that essentially meant nothing and had no purpose other than to squash any potentially heavy silence that might spring up.
At our cars, we said: have a good afternoon and enjoy the sunshine. Not: see you later.
I cried in my car the entire short distance home. In the kitchen I told my housemate that half an hour of the date had been lovely, then I’d spent 45 minutes being dumped and then bantered awkwardly for 20 minutes as if nothing had happened. I told her I was going on a dating hiatus, going to exclusively date myself for a while. I want to get off the emoroco. But first I was going upstairs to nap in my room. She was supportive of this excellent plan.
I’d just nodded off when I heard my phone vibrate.
Unable to resist the temptation I rolled over and checked who it was from.
It was from the enigmatic Number 11, who I still hadn’t met, nor heard from for months.
My housemate reckoned that maaaaaybe, just maybe, before I hibernated, I should just explore this one a little, see where it goes eh?
I agreed with this excellent plan.